Practices with EHRs Earn More, Study Finds

Medical practices that have implemented an electronic health record system are better off financially than those that rely on paper records, generating nearly $50,000 more in revenue, according to a new survey.

Medical practices that have implemented an electronic health record (EHR) system are better off financially than those that rely on paper record, according to a new survey by the Medical Group Management Association.

Individual practices that were not hospital-owned and that had an EHR generated $49,916 more in total revenue (after operating cost per full-time-equivalent physician) than practices with paper medical records, MGMA’s “Electronic Health Records Impacts on Revenue, Costs, and Staffing” report found. (The study is based on 2009 data.)

Practices that use EHR also reported greater expenses -- $105,591 per FTE physician -- but had $178,907 greater median revenue than practices with paper medical records.

"Adopting an electronic system can be costly and time consuming, and understanding the impact it will have on the practice is critical," said William F. Jessee, MD, FACMPE, president and chief executive of MGMA in a statement. "While the implementation process can be very cumbersome, these data indicate that there are financial benefits to practices that implement an EHR system."

The study found that the financial benefits of EHR increase over time, as practice managers gain more experience with their systems. After five years of EHR use, these practices reported an operating margin 10.1 percent greater than practices in their first year of having an HER, according to the study. The highest information-technology costs occur in the first year after installation, while medical records and transcription staff costs declined after this time. Information-technology staffing increased marginally after five years, while medical records staff costs decreased by 44.12%.

The MGMA noted, however, that its surveys depend on voluntary participation, so the results may not be representative of the industry.